Call me naive, but let’s give the deal a chance
By Zan Azlee
I have been writing about the need for a Confidence and Supply Agreement (CSA) in the federal government for a long time. Well, actually ever since the Sheraton Move happened and Pakatan Harapan was pushed out of power.
I noted that there were many minority governments around the world that worked quite well.
In fact, I wrote about how the Perak government was one of the first to come up with a CSA after Ahmad Faizal Azumu was voted out of the menteri besar office.
The government and the opposition managed to come to an agreement in order to govern the state without any major conflicts. It was quite inspiring.
A CSA is a very mature and civil way for governments to move forward. Nobody said the only way for a government to be able to do a proper job is if the ruling party or coalition has a supermajority (or two-thirds majority in Malaysia).
Sure, it would enable them to do things without conflict. But it also means they can do anything without any checks.
Conditioned to think
Unfortunately, in Malaysia, everyone has been conditioned to think a clear two-thirds majority is the only way for a government to function. It is because all this while, until recently, the government always had a two-thirds majority.
When Pakatan Harapan won in 2018, it wasn’t by a two-thirds majority.
It was definitely difficult for Harapan to make any significant policy changes or improvements seeing that it would need a two-thirds majority to change anything constitutional.
But that wasn’t the case with the Undi18 bill which was agreed upon unanimously because both the government and the opposition were on board.
What happened there? The government proposed the bill and had discussions with the opposition. Everyone was happy and agreed with the move.
When it was tabled in Parliament, there was no opposition and it was passed without any conflict. Of course, as we all know, with all the backdoor takeovers and all that, Undi18 has stalled.
The signing of the MOU between the government and Pakatan Harapan.
But the point is, that is how things should work in a mature and civil democracy. A landslide majority is actually never an ideal situation for a democracy.
There always needs to be a strong opposition in Parliament and only then will there be proper check and balance. But both sides need to be responsible. They shouldn’t be opposing just for the sake of it.
So, I’m sorry if people are going to think that I am idealistic or just naive, but when Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob reached out to the opposition right after he was appointed, it did make me feel good.
The fact that the opposition also reciprocated and agreed to discuss was nice. And when the Memorandum of Understanding on Transformation and Political Stability was revealed and signed, I was sold.
I understand it is not a minority government where all parties are part of the administration, but maybe it is better with the MOU.
The MOU has a clear objective – the opposition is still able to oppose if need be. It seems like an ideal marriage to me. My wife and I are constantly trying to do this in our household!
We have to move on
This is not to say that we are ‘absolving all sins’. I realise that the current government we have and the party that the prime minister is from isn’t what the voters voted for in the last general election.
I realise that they did not win the general election for a reason. But it is what it is and no laws have been broken. Like it or not, we have to move on.
At the moment, I am willing to give it a chance and see how it goes. All this may just be teething problems of a country that is progressing in terms of its politics and democracy.
It is unfortunate that we are going through it during a very serious and hard-hitting pandemic. But at least if it works, then we know it will be solid during normal times.
If it doesn’t work, then by all means we should be making noise to put pressure on the leaders to make it work.
And at the end of it all, there is always the next general election which will be happening in less than two years.
Since there is no longer any party that can command a two-thirds majority, it wouldn’t be hard to change the government.
[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]
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